The First Amendment protects freedoms of religion, speech and assembly, while the Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from snooping around us without probable cause that we’re up to something criminal.
But U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have a history of digging into our lives based on our political or religious beliefs or activities. In recent years, the FBI and state and local police have sent undercover agents and paid informants into Mosques, and Muslim, Arab and South Asian groups, and political movements like Occupy, peace, environment and Black Lives Matter. Once embedded, these agents create dossiers on groups and individuals, dangerously play the role of agents provocateurs, and even develop stings that ensnare vulnerable members of the community or group into a fake terrorist plot.
In response to revelations that the FBI and DHS have been spying on Black Lives Matter, Occupy, anti-pipeline activists and peace and solidarity activists, individuals and 131 civil society organizations asked the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to find out the true extent of improper spying.
The Inspector General found that the NYPD broke the rules on surveillance of political activity, doing it for too long without a reason. Also, 95% of those spied on were “individuals associated with Islam.”
New Defense Department Policy Bans Same Spying Practices Army Used on U.S. Antiwar Activists for Years
New rules for Army Intelligence agents prohibit surveillance “for the purpose of collecting information on the domestic activities of U.S. persons” or “anonymous spying on email listservs.”
Back in March, hundreds of protesters descended on the Superdome in New Orleans to disrupt a federal auction for new Gulf of Mexico oil and gas leases. Now an advocacy group wants to know if federal officials worked with local law enforcement and oil and gas industry insiders to spy on environmentalists involved in that and other protests held as part of the campaign.
UN Special Rapporteur: US Falls Short on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association
“In short, people have good reason to be angry and frustrated at the moment. And it is at times like these when robust promotion of assembly and association rights are needed most.”